By MORGAN MANNS
Fostoria’s industries are on a “rising tide” with each company bringing something unique to the city.
That’s how Northwest Ohio Regional Liaison Chase Eikenbary described the city during a visit Tuesday that included tours of St. Wendelin Schools, Mennel Milling and Morgan AM&T.
Eikenbary said the focus of her job is to travel the northwest portion of Ohio to visit companies and help with any needs and listen to any concerns authorities of those companies may have.
She advised that after her visit, she will follow up with the companies on any issues they were having and help them make the proper steps in order to fix those problems.
“It’s good to have someone from the state come in and someone from the city come in and give the different companies in town the opportunity to have their questions and concerns heard,” said Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler. “It’s also good for (city officials) to go and learn the different things about what the companies do so we can help them be successful in any way we can.”
Pamela Smith, executive director of Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Renee Smith, Fostoria grants writer, and Keckler traveled to the businesses with Eikenbary Tuesday and accompanied her to lunch at American Table Family Restaurant.
Brian Shaver, director of parish and school, led the first leg of the tour and brought Eikenbary up to date with the school’s academic status.
Shaver focused mainly on the school’s international student program, which includes 12 Chinese students, one Korean student and one German student.
The program funds the employment of the school’s international coordinator, Betsy Herman, who is fluent in written and spoken Chinese and recently spent six years in China.
“I think (the international program) is great because it exposes the students to real American life,” Herman said. “They expect it to be New York or Los Angeles but it’s not all like that. Many students have said they like rural life better than city life since they’ve been here. They call (Fostoria) a park city because it’s green, as opposed to just buildings.”
Shaver said Herman received a government license to issue I-20’s, which is the first step in requiring a Visa for international students.
“This has opened doors (because) other companies and agencies want to send students to St. Wendelin,” Shaver said. “We could have the school at maximum occupancy with a very diverse international population.”
Shave explained to Eikenbary that one obstacle for the program is a policy that prohibits international students with an F1 Visa — students who will be enrolled in the school for at least two years with the intentions of receiving a diploma — from participating in the school’s athletics.
The policy was set in place due to an issue with another school in the state that recruited foreign athletes who excelled at the sport, resulting in an unfair advantage that won the team multiple championships, according to Shaver.
“I see it as, take care of the abuses and enforce the proper punishments; don’t create a policy that basically discriminates against international students and makes us less effective as a school,” Shaver said. “I think it serves as an injustice to the kids because they can’t fully participate in American high school life by participating in these extra curricular activities.”
Shaver said the policy makes the school “less enticing,” but creates only a minor difficulty as the school’s main focus is academics and the development of the community.
He told Eikenbary of an international student the school has accepted for the next academic year whose father is the owner of a major printing company in China.
“You never know when that person might be expanding their business and they might think that Fostoria is a valuable location or Ohio is a valuable location,” Shaver said. “The student could come here and love it and the dad could come and visit and maybe create a business here that could create a couple hundred jobs for the community.”
In addition to the international program, Shaver also commented on the school’s increase in enrollment since the consolidation of the elementary and high school three years ago, as well as the administration’s excitement for the upcoming year’s plans.
After lunch, the group toured Mennel Milling Co. where Ford Mennel, president, led the tour with a walk-through of the R&D Pilot Mill, followed by a tour of the flour mill.
Mennel focused on topics such as how the different machines work at each level, testing the company does to ensure the best product quality and the different customers the company serves.
Eikenbary also toured Morgan AM&T. However, officials from the business declined media coverage.
“There’s so much high-tech stuff here in town; just look at what some of our industries are doing,” Keckler said after the tours were complete. “It just goes to show if anyone wanted to come here and place a business in town, they can do so and be successful.”
Eikenbary, who has toured Fostoria companies on prior occasions, gave a positive review of Tuesday’s visit.
“Fostoria’s economy is growing; the appropriate leaders are in place, there’s movement and excitement and so much knowledge within each facility,” Eikenbary said. “I can’t wait for my next visit.”